Felt beads are easy and very inexpensive to make - you only need a few grams of merino wool top and some soapy water.
Combined with glass, metal or ceramic beads, they make beautiful jewellery and they can be made into decorations, zip pulls, hair pins, charms for phones and purses – the list is endless!
Put some very warm water and a squirt of washing up soap into a bowl.
Get two tufts of merino wool about 4 – 5 inches long (10-12 cms). This will give you a bead about the size of a small cherry.
If you want to make lots of beads of the same size, weigh the wool so that you know exactly how many grams to use each time.
Roll up one of the tufts, quite tightly, as shown.
Place the rolled up tuft at right angles on to the bottom of the other tuft as shown.
Roll them up together, quite tightly, starting at the bottom, until you have a rough ball shape.
Holding the ball firmly, dip it into the soapy water for a few seconds.
Still holding the ball firmly between your fingers, turn your palm upwards and squirt a tiny amount of washing up soap into your palm.
Put the ball between both your palms and very gently and slowly and with no pressure, roll it around.
It’s important that you only just lightly hold the wool ball between your palms when you start to roll it – if you try to force it at this stage you will end up with a rough bead that resembles a ‘brain’.
As the ball starts to shrink and harden, increase the pressure of rolling until you have a felt bead.
The finished bead should be very firm but with just a little give so that you can poke a hole through it.
Rinse the soap off and leave it to dry then poke a hole through it with a darning needle – you may need pliers to pull the needle through if your bead is very firm.
Felt beads have a gentle fluffiness about them, but if you prefer a smoother finish, use a jumper shaver on them.
You can make different shape beads
To make a long bead, roll the bead in one direction rather than round and round, when the bead is about half felted.
To make pointy ends on a long bead, roll it in one direction in the cups of your hands.
To make a cube, shape the sides by squeezing with your fingers when the bead is almost felted.
To make a disc shaped bead, make a round bead then hammer it flat.
You can make your beads using more than one colour of wool at a time and you can add a wisp of silk top.
A simple bracelet can be made from felt beads and shirring elastic. Measure your wrist and line up the correct length in felt beads. Poke a hole in each felt bead with a thick darning needle - you may need to use pliers to pull the needle right through -then string them together with a double thread of shirring elastic. Tie off and thread the ends back through a bead before cutting off.
This bracelet was made from plain, round felt beads and glass beads.
The felt beads shown are the size of large cherries.
A simple necklace can be made from a few felt beads threaded onto a metal choker, or onto a length of ribbon that can be fastened with either a knot, or a clasp and ring sewn to the ends.
Jewellery findings are easily and cheaply available from online craft stores.
To make a simple necklace, poke a hole in each felt bead with a thick darning needle - you may need to use pliers to pull the needle right through - then thread them on to a metal choker or ribbon.
This choker was threaded with three round beads then decorated with sequins and seed beads - see below photos for ‘how to’.
To prevent the felt beads moving out of line on this choker, the stitching to attach the sequins and seed beads was done with one continuous thread through all three beads after they had been threaded on to the choker.
Felt beads can be embellished in many ways:
Beading with glass beads, sequins etc.
Anchor the thread by pulling the tail into the bead and then making a couple of half hitches. When beading, nylon or polyester will last longer than cotton. Do regular half hitches to stop any puckering and also to make the stitching more secure. It is a good idea to stick a needle - or something of the thickness you plan to string the bead with - through the bead before you begin stitching. This is to prevent the beading thread obscuring the passage through the bead and prevent it from getting broken when stringing the bead.
Felt beads are easily embroidered with 2-3 strands of embroidery floss.
You can use many traditional embroidery stitches
on felt beads. This example was worked with just one simple stitch repeated in a star pattern.
Felt beads can also be embellished with needle felting or wrapped with wire or crochet chains to ‘cage’ the beads.
We hope this brief introduction will inspire you to have fun in making your own unique felted jewellery.